When an English King visited Castletown

Tim Healy in his book Letters and Leaders of My Day (1928) tells a story relating to the visit of Co. Galway, that the wife of one of the men incarcerated since 1882 for the Maamtrasna murders, fell on his knees before the royal pair, sobbing that she was lonely for her man. “Guilty or innocent” Healy writes, “he had been twenty years in jail and the Queen, touched by her sorrow, asked the King to telegraph a pardon. Next day the prisoner was set at large.”

However, the story is dismissed by Fr. Jarlath Waldron in his monumental book on the subject, Maamtrasna, The Murders and The Mystery (1992), who describes Healy as “more of a raconteur than a reliable historian”. The release of the last of the prisoners of that great miscarriage of justice was, in fact, as a result of a visit by the Queen’s Viceroy and his wife, Lord and Lady Dudley the previous year, when a number of the prisoners’ wives threw themselves before the couple at Maamtrasna, and in the native tongue, appealed for the release of their men.

An interpreter was quickly found to translate, with the result that , after twenty years incarceration, the three remaining prisoners were released the following day. In 1882 Timothy Harrington had been in prison with some of the men convicted of Maamtrasna murders, and was convinced that injustice had been done and innocent people had suffered.

“The mighty champion of Maamstrasna” as Fr. Jarlath Waldron described Harrington, started a long campaign in Parliament and the press to have the case reopened, but to no avail. In the election on 1885 the Irish Party joined the Tories to defeat the Liberals, and the ex-Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt, described the junction as the ‘Maamtrasna Alliance’.

While travelling through Connemara, the car carrying the Royal Party broke down, and they then continued on to Kenmare by train, from where they went by car to Dereen, the residence of the Marquis of Lansdowne. After launching with Lord Lansdowne, the King proceeded to Castletownberehaven on August 1, where the royal yacht ‘Victoria and Albert’ was anchored.

There was great excitement in Castletown for the visit and the crowds were arriving from early morning. Over two hundred members of the constabulary were on duty in the town, and the world renowned Constabulary Band entertained the crowds. Five naval ships were anchored in the harbour to salute the royal presence. The Constabulary Guard of honour was lined up, and at 7.30 p.m. in the evening, with a light drizzle falling, the royal carriage arrived into the town.

There was a great cheering as the King alighted from his vehicle at the pier, accompanied by Admiral Poe, Lord Shelbourne, and followed by the Queen and Princess Victoria. As the King passed a number of children in shawls, he said to them, “Oh children, ye must be all wet, and I’m so sorry for you”. Two of the children, Miss Mary R. Harrington, daughter of Mr. Michael R. Harrington, J.P. Castletown, and Miss Julia O’Shea, daughter of Mr. Denis M. O’Shea, Castletown, then went forward and presented the Queen and Princess Victoria with two bouquets, and kissed the ladies’ hands.

The other children’s names were Kathleen Hanley, Gerty Flanagan, Maude Kelly, Kathleen O’Shea, Florence Dobbyn, Julia O’Sullivan, Mary O’Neill, Teresa Moriarty, Belinda Harrington, Agnes Harrington, Mary J. Harrington, Bella Murphy, Ada Curry and Ada Collins. An Address of welcome was then presented by Rev. J.P.Mc Donnell and Mr. Denis F.McCarthy, who were introduced to the King by Lord Shelbourne. The address read: “We the people of Castletownberehaven, beg respectively to offer your Majesties a cordial welcome to our port.We gratefully recognise and appreciate the kindly interest your Majesty has taken in our country, and we gladly avail ourselves of this opportunity of expressing our earnest wish that your visit may be a pleasant one, and that you and Her Majesty may long be spared to draw closer still the bonds that band the scattered portions of your Empire”.

The King then gave his reply: “Gentlemen, I think you for your cordial welcome and good wishes. The Queen and myself have derived much pleasure from our stay in Ireland, and amongst the warm-hearted people of the south, we count, upon a repetition of our happy experiences in other parts of the country.

In the welfare of Ireland, I have a deep interest, which the warmth of our reception will certainly not diminish. It will be a great happiness to me if any effort of mine should help to promote the contentment and prosperity of Ireland, and to strengthen the ties that bind in unity and concord the scattered people of my empire.” As he handed the address to Canon McDonnell there was great applause and three cheers were then called for Princess Victoria.

The King bowed to the crowd, which as almost entirely composed of townspeople, with some others from Milcovee, Waterfall, Rossmacowen an Derrymihin. The Royals then departed by boat for the ‘Victoria and Albert’ and after boarding, a royal salute was fired by by the fleet.

The yacht left the harbour at 3.30 a.m. on the following morning and proceeded to Queenstown for the last stop of the tour. A bronze commemorative medal was issued to every member of the Constabulary on duty for the King’s visit. Constable William Ruth, who lived in The Rock, West End, was on duty at Castletown, and his medal was discovered in an attic a number of years ago.

Sean O’Sullivan of Droum, writing in the 1970’s tells us that not everyone in Beara was so enthusiastic about the royal visitors however. He wrote that as the carriage was passing through the townland of Inches, on its way to Castletown, one old woman was heard to remark: “Twelve years ago they would not have dared to pass this way!”.

The visit of 1903 would be Edward’s last to Ireland. By coincidence Edward VII and Timothy Harrington the two main subjects of our talk, died within a couple of weeks of one another. King Edward died as a result of a series of heart attacks on May 9, 1910, after returning from a visit to France.

The great Timothy Harrington died in Dublin on March 12, having suffered a stroke in London three days previously. He was in London to attend an important meeting in the House of Commons. King Edward was born in 1841; Harrington was born in 1951. Timothy Harrington was buried in Glasnevin, beside his leader Parnell, the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’, and at his funeral members of the Parnell Commemoration Association each wore a badge of Irish poplin in green, white and orange. draped in black, and surmounted on an ivy leaf.

Had he lived another six years he would have seen the tricolour raised above the GPO and an Irish Republic declared by Padraig Pearse. The dramatic events of the years 1916 to 1921 overshadowed the achievements of Harrington and his fellow nationalist parliamentarians, awww.hotmail.comnd banished them forever to the dusty pages of old history books. They deserve more gratitude than they were given.

Courtesy of the Southern Star